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Agency

Journal of Northeast Texas Archeology

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21112/ita.2017.1.32

Abstract

The most distinctive material culture item of the Caddo groups living in East Texas were the ceramics they made for cooking, storage, and serving needs, and also included as necessary funerary goods. The styles and forms of ceramics found on sites in the region hint at the variety, temporal span, and geographic extent of a number of ancestral Caddo groups spread across the landscape. The diversity in decoration and shape in Caddo ceramics is substantial, both in the utility ware jars and bowls, as well as in the fine ware bottles, carinated bowls, and compound vessels, and these characteristics are related to distinctive communities of identity and practice and the recognition of social networks from ceramic assemblages, where potters shared a group identity that can be reconstructed through the analysis of suites of technological and stylistic attributes.

Caddo potters made ceramics in a wide variety of vessel shapes, employing distinctive technological traditions of temper choice, surface finishing techniques, and firing conditions, along with an abundance of well-crafted and executed body and rim designs and surface treatments. From the archaeological contexts in which Caddo ceramics have been found, as well as inferences about their manufacture and use, it is evident that ceramics were important to the Caddo in the cooking and serving of foods and beverages; in the storage of foodstuffs; as personal possessions; as beautiful works of art and craftsmanship (i.e., some vessels were clearly made to never be used in domestic contexts); and as social identifiers. Certain shared and distinctive stylistic motifs and decorative patterns marked closely related communities and constituent groups. Other motifs may have originally been more personal, perhaps deriving from body tattoo motifs.

The Caddo made both fine wares with engraved and slipped decorative elements, with burnished or polished surfaces, including bottles and many bowls of different forms, and utility wares with wet paste decorative elements (i.e., brushed, incised, punctated, etc.). These kinds of ceramics were designed to serve different purposes within Caddo communities and family groups—from that of a cooking pot to the mortuary function of a ceremonial beaker—and this is reflected in differences in paste, surface treatment, firing methods, decoration, and vessel form between the two wares. Decorations and slips, both red (hatinu) and black (hadikuh) were added before, as well as after, baking in an open fire, and commonly the vessels were then burnished and polished; red ochre and white (hakaayuh) kaolinite clay pigments were often added to the decorations on bottles and carinated bowls; green (hasahkuh) pigments have also been documented on some engraved vessels. Webb noted that a number of vessels at the Belcher site (16CD13) had a “pale green pigment…smeared irregularly on the surface of 15 burial vessels.”

The goals of this article are straightforward. First, I will examine the use of clay pigments in the ceramic vessel sherd assemblages from the Late Caddo period stratified platform mound at the Hatchel site (41BW3) on the Red River in Bowie County, Texas, then discuss the variable occurrence of either red or white clay pigments on different fine ware vessel forms at the site. Finally, although not comprehensive (that effort still awaits), I consider the spatial and temporal diversity in clay pigment use among different Caddo sites and communities in East Texas.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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